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Postdoctoral Scholar: Theodore S. Durland

Research Interests

I am interested in fundamental problems of geophysical fluid dynamics, and particularly in those oceanic phenomena that promote a better understanding of our climate system. I seek analytical and numerical solutions to idealized problems that can illuminate the basic dynamics controlling more complicated oceanic processes. My recent work has focused on the dynamics of sea straits: how surprisingly large amounts of wave energy can penetrate narrow straits under appropriate conditions, allowing communication between apparently isolated basins, and how a steady ouflow from a strait can generate eddy variability in the adjacent basin. These phenomena have wide applicability, from the communication between abyssal basins through gaps in the mid-Atlantic ridge, to the interactions of the Pacific and Indian Ocean wind-driven circulations via the narrow passages of Indonesia. This latter case has broad implications for our understanding of important large-scale climate patterns such as El Nino Southern Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Zonal Mode.

At present, I am involved with understanding how the Indonesian Throughflow contributes to the energetic eddy field found in the eastern Indian Ocean.Sea surface temperature in this region is climatically important, and is in part controlled by the local mixing of warm, fresh Indonesian water with the colder, saltier Indian Ocean water. Previous researchers have focused on instability of the South Equatorial Current as a source of the eddies, but preliminary numerical solutions show that variability similar to that observed (both spatially and temporally) can be generated by a steady outflow from the Lombok Strait even without a background alongshore current. I am interested in a dynamical description of this outflow eddy generation mechanism and of how it might then interact with a background current which is itself prone to instability.

Originally published: July 6, 2007